Global markets for U.S. grains are interconnected and affected by diverse drivers of demand including relationships with major grain users, ever-changing weather and trade policy.
U.S. Grains Council (USGC) members are meeting in Tampa, FL, this week at the organization’s 17th International Marketing Conference and 60th Annual Membership Meeting to better understand how the USGC’s network of global staff anticipate and respond to these factors in more than 50 countries around the world.
After a grueling year that included an ongoing trade war with China, unprecedented weather challenges and a flurry of trade deals with key customers, more than 350 attendees heard the latest developments and predictions from three experts on those topics to anticipate and plan for this year’s season: Ambassador Craig Allen, president of the U.S.-China Business Council; Eric Snodgrass, principal atmospheric scientist at Nutrien Ag Solutions; and Ken Levinson, executive director of the Washington International Trade Association.
“We want stable, long-term buyers in China,” said Ambassador Allen in his opening remarks about the ongoing and developing relationship with one of the United States’ biggest trading partners. “Nothing else is acceptable and we will work to that end.”
Snodgrass spoke to the power of Mother Nature’s long-term weather and climate issues, saying the Corn Belt is getting consistently wetter and farmers will need better tools to manage increased precipitation.
Levinson spoke to the dynamics driving agreements with major partners – China, Mexico, Canada and Japan – and the potential for new measures to gain new market access.
The morning culminated with selected USGC staff members from overseas offices reacting to how these drivers are interconnected and have impacts on trade in the markets in which they work.
Ryan LeGrand, USGC president and CEO, moderated the session of international directors including Alejandra Danielson-Castillo, director in South Asia; Tommy Hamamoto, director in Japan; Marri Tejada, director for the Western Hemisphere; and Manuel Sanchez, director for Southeast Asia.
From a tariff rate quota in Brazil to a new free trade agreement partner – Japan – and potential free trade agreement partner, Vietnam, each director spoke about positive developments in their own countries and regions in addition to how China, weather in the U.S. and trade agreement movements are impacting how they develop markets for U.S. grains, enable trade and improve lives in these places.
“Our expert country and regional directors and their staff members around the world tackle these very challenges every day to expand markets for U.S. grains,” said LeGrand. “They allow us to be successful for the corn, sorghum and barley sector producers who make up our membership.”
“It’s important for our members to hear from these experts as they will move into their Advisory Team meetings to formulate recommendations for moving trade forward in 2020,” said USGC Chairman Darren Armstrong, a farmer from North Carolina. “We appreciate the feedback and input, as well as the strategies provided by our directors scattered around the world working in our markets every day. They send back critical information to us on specific developments so the USGC may remain nimble in addressing them.”
Loaded with information from both the morning’s expert speakers and the knowledge provided by the USGC’s overseas directors, attendees headed into the first of three in-depth Advisory Team (A-Team) meetings, during which USGC members help identify opportunities, set priorities and chart the course for the organization in the coming year.
In the next few days, attendees will continue A-Team meetings reviewing the USGC’s Unified Export Strategy (UES) and will recognize members and USGC staff for their years of service before ending the week with a Board of Delegates meeting.